Flux-cored Arc Welding Shielding Gas

In Flux-cored arc welding, shielding gas may be used as it generally produces welds of better and more consistent mechanical properties, with fewer weld defects than either the SMAW or GMAW processes.

Shielding gas equipment for flux-cored arc welding consists of a gas supply hose, a gas regulator, control valves, and supply hose to the welding gun.

Flux-cored arc welding shielding gas is supplied in liquid form when it is in storage tanks with vaporizers, or in a gas form in high pressure cylinders. An exception to this is carbon dioxide. When put in high pressure cylinders, it exists in both liquid and gas forms.

The primary purpose of the shielding gas is to protect the arc and weld puddle from contaminating effects of the atmosphere. The nitrogen and oxygen of the atmosphere, if allowed to come in contact with the molten weld metal, cause porosity and brittleness. In flux-cored arc welding, shielding is accomplished by the decomposition of the electrode core or by a combination of this and surrounding the arc with a shielding gas supplied from an external source. A shielding gas displaces air in the arc area. Welding is accomplished under a blanket of shielding gas. Inert and active gases may both be used for flux-cored arc welding. Active gases such as carbon dioxide, argon-oxygen mixture, and argon-carbon dioxide mixtures are used for almost all applications. Carbon dioxide is the most common. The choice of the proper shielding gas for a specific application is based on the type of metal to be welded, arc characteristics and metal transfer, availability, cost of the gas, mechanical property requirements, and penetration and weld bead shape. The various shielding gases are summarized below.

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide is manufactured from fuel gases which are given off by the burning of natural gas, fuel oil, or coke. It is also obtained as a by-product of calcining operation in lime kilns, from the manufacturing of ammonia and from the fermentation of alcohol, which is almost 100 percent pure. Carbon dioxide is made available to the user in either cylinder or bulk containers. The cylinder is more common. With the bulk system, carbon dioxide is usually drawn off as a liquid and heated to the gas state before going to the welding torch. The bulk system is normally only used when supplying a large number of welding stations.

In the cylinder, the carbon dioxide is in both a liquid and a vapor form with the liquid carbon dioxide occupying approximately two thirds of the space in the cylinder. By weight, this is approximately 90 percent of the content of the cylinder. Above the liquid, it exists as a vapor gas. As carbon dioxide is drawn from the cylinder, it is replaced with carbon dioxide that vaporizes from the liquid in the cylinder and therefore the overall pressure will be indicated by the pressure gauge. When the pressure in the cylinder has dropped to 200 psi (1379 kPa), the cylinder should be replaced with a new cylinder. A positive pressure should always be left in the cylinder in order to prevent moisture and other contaminants from backing up into the cylinder.

The normal discharge rate of the CO2 cylinder is about 10 to 50 cu ft per hr (4.7 to 24 liters per min). However, a maximum discharge rate of 25 cu ft per hr (12 liters per min is recommended when welding using a single cylinder. As the vapor pressure drops from the cylinder pressure to discharge pressure through the CO2 regulator, it absorbs a great deal of heat. If flow rates are set too high, this absorption of heat can lead to freezing of the regulator and flowmeter which interrupts the shielding gas flow. When flow rate higher than 25 cu ft per hr (12 liters per min) is required, normal practice is to manifold two CO2 cylinders in parallel or to place a heater between the cylinder and gas regulator, pressure regulator, and flowmeter. Excessive flow rates can also result in drawing liquid from the cylinder.

Carbon dioxide is the most widely used shielding gas for flux-cored arc welding. Most active gases cannot be used for shielding, but carbon dioxide provides several advantages for use in welding steel. These are deep penetration and low cost. Carbon dioxide promotes a globular transfer. The carbon dioxide shielding gas breaks down into components such as carbon monoxide and oxygen. Because carbon dioxide is an oxidizing gas, deoxidizing elements are added to the core of the electrode wire to remove oxygen. The oxides formed by the deoxidizing elements float to the surface of the weld and become part of the slag covering. Some of the carbon dioxide gas will break down to carbon and oxygen. If the carbon content of the weld pool is below about 0.05 percent, carbon dioxide shielding will tend to increase the carbon content of the weld metal. Carbon, which can reduce the corrosion resistance of some stainless steels, is a problem for critical corrosion application. Extra carbon can also reduce the toughness and ductility of some low alloy steels. If the carbon content in the weld metal is greater than about 0.10 percent, carbon dioxide shielding will tend to reduce the carbon content. This loss of carbon can be attributed to the formation of carbon monoxide, which can be trapped in the weld as porosity deoxidizing elements in the flux core reducing the effects of carbon monoxide formation.

Argon-carbon dioxide mixtures

Argon and carbon dioxide are sometimes mixed for use as a shielding gas for flux-cored arc welding. A high percentage of argon gas in the mixture tends to promote a higher deposition efficiency due to the creation of less spatter. The most commonly used gas mixture in flux-cored arc welding is a 75 percent argon-25 percent carbon dioxide mixture. The gas mixture produces a fine globular metal transfer that approaches a spray. It also reduces the amount of oxidation that occurs, compared to pure carbon dioxide. The weld deposited in an argon-carbon dioxide shield generally has higher tensile and yield strengths. Argon-carbon dioxide mixtures are often used for out-of-position welding, achieving better arc characteristics. These mixtures are often used on low alloy steels and stainless steels. Electrodes that are designed for use with CO2 may cause an excessive buildup of manganese, silicon, and other deoxidizing elements if they are used with shielding gas mixtures containing a high percentage of argon. This will have an effect on the mechanical properties of the weld.

Argon-oxygen mixtures

Argon-oxygen mixtures containing 1 or 2 percent oxygen are used for some applications. Argon-oxygen mixtures tend to promote a spray transfer which reduces the amount of spatter produced. A major application of these mixtures is the welding of stainless steel where carbon dioxide can cause corrosion problems.